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Concern over pro-Putin pianist

Pianist Valentina Lisitsa performs in the ruins of Mariupol last year.

Pianist Valentina Lisitsa performs in the ruins of Mariupol last year.

Published Oct 7, 2023


Durban - The invitation to outspokenly pro-Putin pianist Valentina Lisitsa to perform with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in two weeks’ time has sparked “considerable concern” at the institution.

Board member Devi Rajab referred the Independent on Saturday to Bongani Tembe, the KZN Philharmonic’s chief executive and artistic director, for comment. Tembe has not responded to messages and requests for comment, some dating back to last week.

The concert is scheduled for October 19 at the Playhouse and forms part of the World Symphony Series Spring Season. Lisitsa is also scheduled to perform with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra on October 26.

Lisitsa, who played in the ruins of Mariupol on Russia’s Victory Day last year, three months after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, first attracted controversy in April 2015 when the Toronto Symphony Orchestra cancelled concerts with her, citing her provocative online remarks.

Rajab said the board had been discussing “how to work out a policy that will make it possible for us to deal with such matters” rather than making ad hoc decisions.

Similar controversies could arise with a visiting artist aligned to the Palestinian cause, she cited as an example.

Katya Fedkina, Durban representative of the Ukrainian Association of SA, said no plans had yet been made in reaction to Lisitsa’s pending performance.

The Independent on Saturday